Camping was a religion in our family and you were never too young to be taken into the fold. It was 1959 when my Dad and a buddy decided that a fishing trip was in order and wouldn’t it be a great idea if both families came along to enjoy all the fun.
Four adults, twelve kids including two (myself and some other unfortunate toddler) still in diapers and several dogs spent a rain soaked weekend on the wicked west-coast. We took shelter under musty canvas (“Don’t touch the sides!!!”) tents, old-school tarpaulins and numerous (thankfully large and sturdy) trees.
Numerous salmon were landed, no small children were drowned, not a single person contracted pneumonia and both marriages did not (contrary to moments when it seemed inevitable) end in divorce.
1965 found us camped at Englishman River. Just the seven of us this time, crammed somehow into two sketchy tents ,this time protected by virtual acres of flapping plastic-sheeting kept aloft by miles of rope ingeniously strung from numerous tree branches by our father.
Our home-made sleeping bags (frugally sewn from old, surplus moving -company load-blankets) were perched atop old-fashioned air mattresses on the canvas floor of the tent.
This was in the primitive days before useful (and water-proof) things like vinyl or Cortex had been invented so we were warned repeatedly to keep them dry, lest we all end up with arthritis from sleeping on damp bedding.
(Did I mention that we were camped directly beside a particular tempting stretch of Englishman River, with enticing rapids just feet from the door of our tents?) Naturally, the following morning we cleverly invented “tubing” and spent the entire day joyously shooting the shallow rapids along our stretch of river.
It was late on that lazy summer afternoon that my father casually wondered aloud about the amount of time it might take to dry out a completely soaked air mattress. (In case you’re wondering its seven hours in the blistering sun … and with the right medication, arthritis is not nearly as bad as you’d think).